Informit article: The Politics of Moralizing the Nation

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The late Edward Said remarked that we live in a post September 11 epoch of “warring monotheisms”. It is a world threatened by reactionary moral agendas at once insular, punitive and cynical. Two recent books thoughtfully critique such prescriptive moral platforms and the reductive conceptions of history and identity that accompany them. One is Jane Bennett and Michael Shapiro’s ‘The Politics of Moralizing’ (2002), and the other Ghassan Hage’s ‘Against Paranoid Nationalism’ (2003). These books share a pluralist temper suspicious of moral norms. The introduction to The Politics of Moralizing interrogates the deliberative complacency that results when the moralizer ‘presents her substantive positions as having a high degree of internal coherence and purity’, presenting the world ‘as if its contingent parts could be reconciled, its paradoxes solved, its tragic dimension erased’. ‘Against Paranoid Nationalism’ questions the prevalence of the friend/enemy distinction in the moral discourse of nationalists and proposes that critical intellectuals reject certainty and judge each other ‘according to how thoroughly, ethically and interestingly they can keep questioning everything’.

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